smart
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Is the digital divide narrowing or widening? There is no exact answer to this as statistics are unclear on Internet access rates in the various regions. What is clear is that the cost, quality, and levels of proficiency are part of the digital divide story.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 3-2019.
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The divide is evident in Africa’s utilities, where embracing the smart meter revolution is yet to be fully realised for various reasons (page 50). It is a wise business decision to explore how to take advantage of digital developments and actively examine new ways to enable processes and systems, especially given the energy revolution underway.

In our first review on digitalisation (pages 25 to 37), we sought out the global and local smart themes taking root. Our selection, from the sheer numbers of innovations transcending and reimagining our world, examines four areas: digital skills, 5G, water technology, and automation.

Reviewing an IFC report, Digital Skills in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spotlight on Ghana – which highlights the influence of technology and automation on the future of work – it is anticipated that about 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in a job that doesn’t yet exist. I find the prospect of this extremely exciting! The importance of this statement is around how your business is future-proofing itself through your selection and training of employees for this new workforce.

Since the United Nations has predicted that the world will face a 40% water supply shortage in just 11 years, we felt it essential to look at how water utilities can use technology to circumvent this life-threatening situation. A good start is to implement smart technologies, like bulk water management devices, to set the foundation for the water industry to apply data science and artificial intelligence to the issues of supply and demand.

Even the aggressive modifications in the mobile space can’t be overlooked as we explore digitalisation. In terms of 5G (basically, fifth-generation mobile communications delivering a super-fast user-experience), one of our association partners, the AUTC, asks whether African utilities are ready to take up this tool. Find the answer to this and four other questions posed on page 26 – and share your views with us on our social media platforms.

On a different note, as the official host publication for the Future Energy East Africa conference and exhibition (pages 56 to 63), we looked into the geothermal market. Of interest, apart from it being a clean baseload energy source, there are multiple direct-use applications for geothermal energy, such as agricultural crop drying and geothermally operated laundromats. With countries in this region becoming a hotspot for tourism, it makes a good business case for laundries serving hotel spas.

Matthias Klarl, from the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility, believes that considering the number of early-stage projects in East Africa, international financial institutions should keep a close watch on this market (page 12) – and I am in agreement. Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya have a formidable sustainable resource at their disposal. Kenya is not letting this resource go to waste and has secured its position on the geothermal energy map with KenGen, the country’s generation utility, ranked the largest geothermal producer in Africa.

Along with the Geothermal Development Company overseeing early geothermal steam development in Kenya and with the expertise of KenGen’s Joan Chahenza (page 76), who has a knack for negotiating and developing Power Purchase Agreements, this market has progressive policies in place giving rise to a distinct business opportunity.

Share your plans with us on social media for attending the #FutureEnergyEastAfrica conference, taking place at the KICC in Nairobi, Kenya on 17–18 September 2019.

Until the next issue.
Nicolette

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